Have Your Say: Best Enthusiast Zoom Compact of 2013

Dec 18, 2013 at 21:55 GMT

Have Your Say: Best Enthusiast Zoom Compact of 2013

2013 was a busy year for high-end compact cameras, which saw everything from iterative updates to established lines to brand new options from manufacturers entering this market segment. We've used almost all of them, reviewed a few, and in the process we've taken thousands of pictures and formed plenty of opinions (most of the content in this article is adapted from our extensive buying guide pages) But now it's your turn - what was the best enthusiast compact camera of 2013? Click through this slideshow for our selection (in alphabetical order), and a chance to cast your vote. 

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments. 

Canon PowerShot G16

The Canon PowerShot G16 is the latest in a long series of high-end Canon PowerShots. It features a 12MP CMOS sensor and a 28-140mm (equivalent) F1.8-2.8 zoom lens. The lens lacks a bit of reach at the telephoto end, but optical quality is very high, and that's a perfect range for everyday photography of people and places.

The G16 is impressively fast, offering extremely responsive autofocus and rapid shot-to-shot times even in Raw capture mode. It also boasts full manual exposure control and plenty of 'hands on' control points. As such, the G16 makes a good second camera in a DSLR or mirror less interchangeable lens system. It's relatively compact, very responsive, and reliably delivers good quality images.

Canon PowerShot S120

The S120 is Canon's fifth-generation 'shirt pocket' enthusiast compact since it revived this camera class in 2009. It has a new 12MP 1/1.7" BSI-CMOS sensor, 24-120mm equivalent F1.8-5.7 optically stabilized lens, and can record 1080p video at 60fps. This all comes in a small, slimline but solid-feeling body with, for the most part, refined operation.

The S120 is fast and reliable in operation, with generally very good image quality. All of this adds up to a highly competent package in terms of all-round capability. 

Fujifilm X20

The 12MP Fujifilm X20 is Fujifilm's flagship zoom compact camera, and it has impressed us with its image quality and performance. Among its specification highlights are a 2/3" 12MP X-Trans CMOS II sensor which incorporates hybrid phase and contrast-detection autofocus and a fast, very sharp 28-112mm equivalent F2-2.8 zoom lens. It also includes a built-in optical 'tunnel type' viewfinder with exposure information overlay, which is helpful when composing images in very bright light when the display on the rear screen can be hard to see clearly.

In terms of image quality, the X20 delivers good images in a range of different environments. With features such as built-in Raw conversion, and intelligently integrated automatic and manual exposure modes, the X20 is a very attractive option for enthusiasts. 

Fujifilm XQ1

The Fujifilm XQ1 is a small camera that hides plenty of features inside its stylish metal shell. Most importantly it boasts Fujifilm's 2/3" X-Trans CMOS II sensor, which incorporates phase detection for fast autofocus, and is larger than those found in most other cameras in this class.

The lens is at its best at the long end of the zoom. In typical Fujifilm fashion, the JPEG color rendition is lovely, white balance generally well-judged (although tending towards the cool side), and high ISO image quality is pretty impressive. 

Nikon Coolpix P7800

The Coolpix P7800 is a full-featured, premium compact clearly intended as an answer to Canon's popular G-series cameras. The P7800 offers compelling specs, including a 1/1.7" BSI CMOS sensor, a 28-200mm equivalent F2-4 lens, a fully articulating LCD, and an electronic viewfinder.

A good sensor, high-quality lens, and good JPEG engine mean that the P7800 delivers very impressive image quality. Images are sharp and noise-free at low sensitivities, and the well-controlled noise reduction means there's less to be gained at high ISO by shooting Raw.  

Nikon Coolpix P330

The Coolpix P330 is Nikon's pocket enthusiast camera - competing much more squarely in its class, thanks to a 1/1.7" BSI CMOS sensor and the ability to capture Raw files (both of which its predecessor, the P310, lacked). It offers a useful 24-120mm equivalent F1.8-5.6 zoom, which compares well to competitive cameras.

The P330's image quality, like its big brother, the P7800, is very good with Nikon's JPEG engine doing particularly well in getting the best out of the camera in low light.

Olympus Stylus 1

The Stylus 1 is Olympus's flagship zoom compact camera, offering an optically-stabilized 28-300mm equivalent F2.8 lens. Its 12MP BSI-CMOS sensor is of the 1/1.7in type, and ISO sensitivity spans 100-12,000. The Stylus 1 is a little more pricey than most consumer-oriented compact cameras, but its F2.8 constant aperture zoom is worth the extra cash, producing sharp and detailed images at all focal lengths.

As well as the usual details like Raw mode and full manual control, the Stylus 1 also features built-in Wi-Fi, a built-in 3EV neutral density filter, and a 1.44 million-dot electronic viewfinder. The Stylus 1 adopts the useful dual mode stepped and stepless control ring from the XZ-2.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LF1

The slender Panasonic Lumix DMC-LF1 is the only small-bodied, Raw-capable compact to include an electronic viewfinder (not a fantastic one, but still), and it offers an impressive 28-200mm equivalent F2-5.9 lens.

The LF1's image quality is good, courtesy of its 1/1.7" CMOS sensor, with better color response than we're used to from Panasonic. JPEGs can occasionally feature slightly abrupt highlight clipping and flat contrast, but are generally very nice.

Pentax MX-1

The MX-1 is Pentax's first entry into the enthusiast compact space, and it's 1/1.7" CMOS sensor and 28-112mm F1.8-2.5 lens offers strong image quality and the ability to offer a little background blur for portraits at the long end of the zoom. 

The MX-1's image quality is its strongest point, letting it comfortably compete against other enthusiast compacts. The fast lens limits the need for high ISO shooting - an area where it begins to drop behind the best in its class. The solid (maybe even over-engineered) brass body gives a sense of quality and dependability that can sometimes be lacking in cameras of this type.

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II

The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II improves on its predecessor the RX100 by offering a back-side illuminated 20MP 1-inch CMOS sensor and the addition of thoughtful extras like a tilting (although not fully articulated) rear LCD and a hotshoe for adding accessories like a flash or optional electronic finder.

The RX100 II's lens is the same as the one first featured on the original RX100, and spans a useful range of 28-100mm with a maximum aperture of F1.8-4.9. The new sensor enables faster, more accurate autofocus in poor light, and ISO sensitivity tops out at 25,600. Don't expect to be making poster-sized prints at this sensitivity, but image quality is good enough for web sharing, and at more moderate sensitivity settings the RX100 II is capable of excellent results.

Sony Cyber-shot RX10

Sony's Cyber-shot RX10 marries the 20MP 1"-type BSI-CMOS sensor from the RX100 II with a 24-200mm Zeiss Vario-Sonnar zoom lens that has a constant maximum aperture of F2.8. Although relatively expensive, it's a cut above conventional smaller-sensor 'super zoom' cameras.

The RX10 is the first Sony camera to feature a 'Direct Drive SSM' focus motor, which uses piezoelectric materials to position the focus element, rather than linear motors. This translates to snappy, accurate focus and in terms of image quality, the RX10's 1-inch sensor delivers excellent images even at high ISO settings, which rival entry-level mirrorless and DSLR cameras.